dir: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
It's time. Time to go to the cinemas again. Time to embrace the magic of the silver screen.
Time to laugh at movies made entirely of Lego.
Is it too much to ask, is it a bridge too far? I was always going to eventually see this, because there was that law passed by the United Nations that everyone with a kid under ten had to take their kids to see this or they'd be shot into the centre of the sun, but this is school holidays time, and I have a child under ten. So it became obligatory to do it now now NOW!
I am, and this is going to sound quite perverse, considering how all-pervasive and ubiquitous the stuff is, not that big a fan of Lego. They didn't play much of a part in the theatrical off-off Broadway version of my childhood, and I've never really cared for them. When you've got kids, of course, or have to get presents for other friend's kids and such, well of course you're going to be buying them all the time, but I do it without really appreciating it, and I don't have that obsessive desire to encapsulate, build and control a 'world' that I think you have to have for Lego to be like crystal meth cravings.
It's not in me. I've got plenty of other geek obsessions to obsess over, don't need any other addictions, thankyouverymuch for asking.
So I don't have any lingering affection for the toy, and it is a toy, and zero nostalgia for them then or affection for them now. For me, and I'm not pretending I'm the only one this has occurred to, the Lego Movie's only purpose is to sell more Lego. And to make a billion dollars, but mostly to sell more Lego.
Lego is a toy company recently valued at $46 Billion, so, clearly, they have desperate need of more of your money.
Again, I'm not the first person to say this most obvious of things, it amounts to an hour plus commercial for Lego. It's managed to even transcend the concept of product placement, because there's virtually nothing on the screen that isn't Lego, constantly, always and all the time.
That makes it a bit of a soulless endeavour, for me.
It sounds like a bad thing, but, by the same token, that doesn't mean it wasn't entertaining. I was entertained by this, because it's funny, it's fleet on its tiny, square feet, it's visually inventive and kaleidoscopic, and the voice work is top notch.
How do you make a two-hour long ad for Lego seem like a legitimate, worthwhile endeavour? You get Morgan Freeman to provide voiceovers and one of the main voices. It works whether the content of your movies is aliens, penguins, Jim Carreys or bucket lists.
You also try to imbue it with that most cliché of qualities, which movie studios buy from CostCo in bulk. It's imported from poorer countries, to give value to you, the customer. It's called heart, or perhaps "heart". The Lego Movie tries to create a patina of meaningfulness and an overall framing device explaining why the antics of a bunch of Lego characters matter through this one, dodgy element.
Does it work? Well, the problem with this "heart" element, that was extracted from poor kids in third-world countries, blendered, refined, then further blandised and inserted into the script by illegal workers wearing industrial gloves up to their elbows, with the subtlety of factory workers cramming stuffing into Thanksgiving turkeys, is that it's completely unearned and utterly hollow.
If you're less cynical than me, then perhaps it works and gives the movie an extra relatable element.
I don't think there's a kid in the audience that could have given a good goddamn when we saw it, but that's neither here nor there.
Maybe it does resonate with the kids, many or all of whom have an obsessive, controlling dad, who buys all the Lego sets and builds them himself, and glues them together so his kids can't play with them, and who spends tens of thousands of dollars on Lego sets but doesn't let his kids touch them.
Yeah, I'm sure there are lots of kids who can relate to that. Well, maybe Will Ferrell's kids feel like that, at the very least.
But, then again, what the hell am I talking about? This story is about Emmet (Chris Pratt), a construction worker Lego person, who lives in a perfect Lego land where he always follows the instructions, whether it’s what to do every morning, what to do at work, or what to do after work.
You might not be able to guess by now, but not only is Emmet the hero of this story, who is about to embark on a heroic journey where he goes from zero to hero, which we’ve never seen before, because there’s this prophecy, you see and…
Yes, it’s the same goddamn story you’ve seen a million times before in a million different mediums. The only difference is you haven’t seen it done in Lego yet.
And after seeing this you’ll be able to say that you’ve seen exactly the same generic hero’s story that you’ve seen, only this time lovingly rendered in plastic bricks and voiced by famous Hollywood people.
That doesn’t really make it any less pure formulaic, as formulaic as the instructions from a Lego kit the movie pretends you shouldn’t be forced to follow, if you feel like it, except when you should.
Emmet falls in with some rebels, who are trying to stop Lord or President Business (Will Ferrell) from destroying all the Lego worlds using the evil Kragle. What follows is basically either name checking or visual representations of not only every set Lego has available for sale, but also all the other merchandising that Lego has licensed, meaning that Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman and Milhouse are shown/characters that get a few words of dialogue, and City sets, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars sets get a brief (and funny) look in, Wild West this, Beach sets that, all in the alleged service of getting our hero to realise that he is a Hero so he can save the world along the way.
What you could do instead of watching this film is get a Lego catalogue, and randomly hit yourself in the face with the outstretched pages, maybe hit yourself in sequence or sporadically, and yell out funny quips as you do it. It would literally be a 3D experience, but you wouldn’t need to wear those terrible plastic glasses.
Again, I sound horribly cynical about the whole experience, but I actually laughed quite a bit, quite frequently. The script as it relates to the actual story is pure bunk, but the quips the characters make, like almost everything Batman says (Will Arnett, who does a really good Christian Bale), or Good Cop/Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) says, like many of things almost any of the hundred or so “characters” say is pretty laugh out loud, or chortle quietly, funny.
It’s entertaining. It is. It’s empty and soulless, but so are most of the things we see at the cinema, the difference is that this lack of depth is exceeded by its entertainment value, something which many of the other plethora of animated movies lack despite their stabs at ‘meaning’ through schmaltz and manipulative music and the same bloody ideas.
Lego Movie doesn’t have manipulative string sections and swelling crescendos: it has Everything is Awesome! blazing out and pounding hard at the audience’s ears and reservations. It’s random, and nonsensical, and arbitrary and empty beyond empty, but the limitations of the medium and the sheer shallowness that they’re pretending to mock makes for a pleasing confection, a macaroon, a meringue, a baby chino, pure froth in the service of keeping you occupied and pleased for a couple of hours.
My daughter loved the flick, and wanted me to record her immortal words: “The Lego Movie was awesome and Everything is Awesome was awesome too.” I’m afraid with enthusiasm like that she’s never going to make it in this movie review game. People want bile, bitchiness, bastardry and cruel jokes at Tom Cruise’s expense, not this endless positivity. Come back when you’ve hit your angsty “everything sucks” phase, my cherub.
7 Lego gently, firmly and repeatedly smushed into your eyes and ears out of 10
“We are from the planet Duplo, and we're here to destroy you.” – well of course you are, you adorable little Lego thingies – The Lego Movie